The Gouritz State of the Rivers Report (GSRR) was produced in 2007 and lists the characteristics, benefits and issues associated with the rivers of the Southern Cape.
Frighteningly, indications are that South Africa will reach its limits of accessible water supply between 2020 and 2030. Locally, water resources in the Garden Route are under severe threat and that water demand is unsustainable. Water Affair’s Internal Strategic Perspective for the Gouritz Water Management Area (which incorporates the rivers of the Southern Cape) indicates a shortfall of 43 million cubic metres per annum for the Garden Route and 10 million cubic metres per annum for the Knysna to Bloukrans area.
Clearly there is a need for us all to take heed, save water, implement stringent water regulations and more sensible water harvesting techniques.
The Keurbooms system is Plettenberg Bay’s main water source and its estuary is ranked as 18th in terms of conservation importance out of 247 estuaries in South Africa. During 2009/2010 water levels in the Keurbooms system dropped alarmingly as a result of the drought with measurements at the Keurboom’s gauging weir at times dropping below the determined ecological requirement to sustain the Keurbooms Estuary - this despite water cuts and water use regulations being imposed by the Bitou Municipality.
The Plettenberg Bay Community Environment Forum (PBCEF) commissioned Grant Johnstan and Associates to compile an Evironmental Management Framework (EMF) in October 2008. The aim of the The Lower Bitou / Keurbooms Catchment and Floodplain Preliminary EMF is to raise the general awareness of critical / sensitive environments which occur in the Study Area by identifying and mapping the various ecosystems.
Identified threats to the river systems in our area include the following:
Other important river systems in our area include the Salt River in the Crags (to the east of Plettenberg Bay) and the Bitou system.
Research on the Salt River has revealed that the system is home to 33 newly discovered, undescribed aquatic insect species and four new genera which have an ancient lineage going back more than 140 million years. The Salt River is a fishless system and, it is believed, that because of this, these seemingly unique species have not had to adapt to predation through evolution. The Nature’s Valley Trust, in partnership with the Albany Museum and SANParks are continuing with research and conservation projects involving the Salt River and eleven other rivers in the Tsitsikamma.
The Bitou River is only approximately 15km long, but is vitally important to the Keurbooms Estuary which it feeds. The Bitou Wetland has been described as “the most valuable ecological resource of the entire catchment, the Bitou marsh, 654ha in entirety and currently under severe threat of development on its perimeter ....” (The Wetlands Of The Greater Keurbooms River Catchment: Identification, Mapping and Preliminary Present State Assessment, EH Haigh, Institute for Water Research, Rhodes University, 2005). A conservation and rehabilitation investigative project is currently being implemented by the Eden to Addo Corridor Initiative in the Bitou Valley and includes community involvement and eco tourism.